How Is Compensation Determined for Emotional Distress?

Personal Injury | November 11, 2023

Emotional distress is a compensable loss in the Kentucky civil justice system. An injured accident victim can qualify for financial compensation for emotional distress along with physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, and psychological trauma. Calculating a value for emotional distress is difficult due to its intangible nature. Putting a price on pain and suffering may require help from an experienced Louisville personal injury attorney.

What Factors Are Considered in an Emotional Distress Case

When determining a financial award in a personal injury claim, economic damages are calculated using bills, invoices and other tangible evidence. However, hard numbers are not available for noneconomic damages. Instead, a jury will base the value of pain and suffering or emotional distress on how much the accident and injury have impacted the victim.

Common factors used in these determinations are:

  • Injury severity
  • Permanency of the injury
  • Level of disability
  • Loss of independence
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Impact on the victim’s life
  • The amount of mental anguish
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Future distress
  • Depression or anxiety

A professional evaluation is often used to provide insight into the extent of the emotional trauma inflicted on the victim. A mental health professional may be hired to evaluate the individual to assess the level of distress suffered. Other forms of evidence may also be used, such as medical documentation, an injury journal and testimony from people who know the victim.

Common Calculation Methods Used for Emotional Distress

Juries in Kentucky are not legally required to use a specific method to determine a value for pain, suffering or emotional distress. They are allowed to assign any monetary value they deem appropriate based on the evidence presented and the facts of the case. Then, a judge will ultimately decide if the value for emotional distress assigned by a jury is reasonable and within the parameters of the law.

While not required, juries commonly use one of two methods to assign a value to intangible losses. The first is the Multiplier Method. It is an equation that adds up all compensable damages (economic or special damages) and multiplies it by a number between 1.5 and 5. The number chosen will depend on the severity of the victim’s injuries and losses.

The second method is the per diem method. This method assigns a daily value to pain and suffering (typically based on the victim’s daily wage), then multiplies it by the number of days the victim is expected to experience pain from the injury. For example, if a jury assigns a per diem value of $100 for 100 days, the victim would be awarded $10,000 for emotional distress.

Seeking Fair Compensation for Emotional Distress

Obtaining fair financial compensation for emotional distress or pain and suffering often requires assistance from a personal injury attorney. Insurance companies may try to present inadequate settlement offers for serious injuries. An attorney can help demonstrate an accident victim’s intangible losses to a judge or jury in a compelling way, such as with testimony from witnesses and experts. There is no one-size-fits-all award for emotional distress. Contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation about your individual case.

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